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Raj Gill finds out why Edinburgh is the perfect city for a festive break

Writer Raj Gill travels to Edinburgh to explore the city’s world famous Christmas markets, staying at Cheval Old Town Chambers.

By Raj Gill  |  December 24, 2021
Christmas market in Edinburgh and Walter Scott Monument at night, Scotland

After missing out last year on our annual visit around the Christmas markets, we were especially excited to be permitted (within government guidelines of course) to have a wee jaunt out to Edinburgh to pound the streets and fill our boots with the incredible array of goods that are available at the world famous Edinburgh Christmas street market. Edinburgh is known for its world heritage status, and attracts hundreds and thousands of visitors a year, so it’s no surprise that new hotels are opening up at a fast pace.

We booked into newly opened Cheval Old Town Chambers handily located on the Royal Mile, opposite St Giles’ Cathedral, and within easy walking distance of Princes Street and the St James Quarter. The hotel is already attracting the attention of the glitterati, during our stay, it was actors galore, David Tennant, Martin Sheen and Ricky Gervais were all in residence.

The Cheval group’s Scottish properties also include The Edinburgh Grand and the Abbey Strand Apartments at Holyrood. Cheval Old Town Chambers is the newest addition to their collection, and was developed by owner Chris Stewart Group.

Edinburgh Christmas street market
The festive markets in the city centre are a popular highlight during Edinburgh’s Christmas. Image credit: shawnwilliams4433/Bigstock.com

The converted A-listed property houses 24 new luxury apartments, a reception area with a dedicated retail offering and lounge for guest use, also on the ground floor you will find a bar and the Luckenbooths restaurant.

The property boasts one of the best locations in the heart of the city, sited within a UNESCO accredited World Heritage Site. The building dates from the 18th century and has been carefully restored over the past two years. The apartments, which consist of luxury, deluxe and loft one-bedroom and open plan studio apartments, plus three unique one-bedroom penthouses, offer unique views onto the Royal Mile and the cathedral or northwards towards Princes Street Gardens. Each apartment’s interior has a distinctive character, with all original features complemented by sleek, contemporary designs.

It’s super handy for shopping, and fabulous eateries are dotted all around. Our open plan apartment consisted of a small high spec fully equipped kitchenette area, a lounge area, a big comfy double bed, and an ensuite with Arran Aromatics products. The apartment overlooks the Royal Mile and the St Giles Cathedral, and it has a minimalistic Scandi-feel.

Cheval Old Town Chambers reception
Cheval Old Town Chambers is handily located on the Royal Mile, opposite St Giles Cathedral

Despite the hotel being at full occupancy we were incredibly lucky to manage to secure a reservation at the new in-house restaurant Luckenbooths.

Luckenbooths were a range of tenements (a block of apartments/shops) which formerly stood immediately to the north of St Giles Kirk in the High Street of Edinburgh. They were demolished in 1802. The restaurant is managed by leading Edinburgh-based restaurant group Bon Vivant.

Despite having 140 covers, and all day dining, the restaurant was packed the day we chose to dine. Sadly as it was in November we were unable to dine out on the terrace which has tremendous views overlooking Princes Street Gardens, and all of Edinburgh’s most iconic landmarks.

Cheval Old Town Chambers apartment bedroom
Each Cheval Old Town Chambers apartment’s interior has a distinctive character, with all original features complemented by sleek, contemporary designs

The menu conjured up by head chef Emma Clark-Szabo, is based on top quality produce and ingredients from the rich and varied Scottish larder. The all-day menu consists of small plates, grill, bowls and large plates. It was difficult to settle on which small plates to order, so we opted for a selection of the confit duck rillette, Campbell’s haggis and beef shin bon bons, Woven whisky No.2 glazed Scottish smoked salmon and the sticky tempura cauliflower. All of which were devoured, if this was an indication of what was to come next, we were thrilled.

For the mains I opted for the Moving Mountains vegan burger which was served with the tastiest jalapeno mayo I have ever encountered. J had the 10z Scottish rib eye with a side of truffle fries. We weren’t disappointed, the food was delicious and the service was spot on. We are huge fans of Bon Vivant eateries and we will be back to this welcome new addition.

On our last day in Scotland’s capital city we set out on foot to the sister property, Cheval The Edinburgh Grand, which is located in the heart of Edinburgh’s designer shopping district. We were intrigued by the new cocktail menu created by the legendary cocktail master Ruben Gonzalez. We booked into The Register Club for afternoon tea, lining our stomachs before we hit the streets and visited the Christmas market.

Afternoon Tea at The Register Club
Enjoy the delicious afternoon tea at The Register Club

Cheval The Edinburgh Grand is exactly what it says in its name, its grand, very grand, formerly a bank, the Cheval have done a cracking job of retaining and enhancing many of the original features. Christmas in Edinburgh is always special, and the Grand was suitably decked out in the most fabulous Christmas decorations, making it a magnet for tourists hoping to get that great shot for instagram.

Even the afternoon tea is a grand affair; well one wouldn’t expect anything less. We started with a selection of cocktails, voted favourite was of course the aptly named ‘The Grand’, which is a concoction of white rum, chinotto, citric acid mix, IPA Cordial with grapefruit, green tea and juniper, and a dash of soda water.

The menu consists of the finest seasonal produce from artisan suppliers all across Scotland. As to be expected there was a selection of contemporary and classic sandwiches and savories, my favourite was the mini tomato tart which was so delicious, I had to ask for more! The homemade scones were lovely and warm and led to the usual discussion of cream or jam first. I prefer to slather them with jam first topped with a spot of cream. There’s a lovely atmosphere in The Register Club, and we were loath to leave, however it was time to go, and we were excited about our afternoon of shopping at the Christmas markets.

Factbox

Open plan studio apartments from £182 per night at Cheval Old Town Chambers, and £194 at Cheval The Edinburgh Grand.

The afternoon tea at The Register Club is £28pp, or £38pp with a glass of Champagne.

For further information about Cheval, visit chevalcollection.com.